UT Legal Clinic begins 70th year with swearing-in for new student attorneys

70 years ago, when Charles H. Miller founded the UT Legal Clinic, he was hailed as a pioneer in legal education.  Recently, a group of UT law students became part of the Clinic’s long and lasting legacy.

On January 27, a classroom at the College of Law was transformed into a courtroom in which law students stood before Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, and took the oath to practice law as student attorneys.  Before administering the oath, Judge Thomas, who began his own legal career as a clinic attorney, challenged the students to listen to their clients and to fight for their interests.

Working under the supervision of faculty members, public defenders, and prosecutors, these student attorneys will serve the Knoxville and East Tennessee area by representing clients in a variety of court proceedings and transactional matters.

“Charles Miller, the founder of clinical education at the College of Law, knew that law students needed more than classroom experiences to develop into legal professionals,” said Clinic Interim Director Penny White. “By giving students the opportunity to represent real people with real problems, the legal clinic and our externship programs help prepare students for the practice of law while serving the public and legal profession.”

The Legal Clinic, founded in 1947, is the longest-running legal clinical program in the United States. Since its founding, it has provided students with opportunities to learn by doing, while also significantly impacting the lives of real people who need dedicated and professional advocates working on their behalf. U.S. News and World Report ranks the clinic in the top 10 legal clinical programs among public universities, and 19th among all U.S. law schools.   Each semester, students like those sworn in by Judge Thomas, carry Miller’s legacy into the future.